A reader from France recently sent me pictures of this Chinese silver coin with beautiful double dragons on the obverse. I was astonished: usually, this kind of coins is only seen in large auctions and I never had someone contacting me about a genuine one. Not only this coin was obviously genuine, but it was the better, very rare Large Characters variety:
As you can see, on the Large Characters variety the manchu script at the center of the coin is connected to the surrounding Chinese characters in two different places. On the more common Small Characters variety, the characters don’t connect.
The 1904 Hupeh tael, whichever variety, is always a rare coin. It only circulated for one month before being scrapped, and only 648,000 were minted in the first place. It is impossible to know how many survived, but there is only 224 coins graded by PCGS to this day, of which only 25 with the “Large Characters” variety. On June 25, Heritage Auctions sold a perfect one for $360,000 USD in Hong Kong.
The strangest thing about my reader’s coin is the circulation wear:
Most of the surviving 1904 Hupeh Tael are in high grade because they were thesaurized as high denomination coins and left untouched. It seems this one somehow escaped the Hupeh province and circulated elsewhere, likely for its weight in silver ?
PCGS certified this coin VF30: this is the lowest grade for this type, but a privilege to even hold it in one’s hand. Only two dozens are known to exist in the world right now, and it is a very rare pleasure indeed to help add one to the census !